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Have you ever responded to the question “how are you?” with “I’m SO busy!!!”?
I know I have. But really, when did our lives become so overwhelming that we’d offer such a poor answer to a genuinely nice question? All it does is force the other person to comfort or commiserate with us, and where’s the fun or value in that?
As a default position, being busy is an alarmingly easy one to take. And we’re being enabled every step of the way. In the entrepreneurial world, there’s a pervasive notion that being successful means hustling and generally running yourself into the ground. From Gary Vaynerchuk telling you that needing more than 6 hours of sleep a night is for losers (I’m paraphrasing), to the ubiquitous cute neon “Hustle” sign at co-working space, the message is clear – DON’T STOP WORKING IF YOU WANT TO MAKE IT!!!!
If you’re ready to consistently grow your business AND carve out more time to spend time with family, travel, or do whatever else floats your boat, these 5 strategies will set you free from your busy-work and help you focus on activities that get results.
I’ve found that the most profound and lasting changes come about when we combine inner with more tactical outer work so try not to skip over the “softer” stuff, OK?
1. Look inward
Self-actualization begins with self-awareness. It’s practically impossible to let go of bad habits and create new ones without a little soul-searching so let’s start by asking a few questions.
If your default position is one of hustling or busy-ness, ask yourself why. Does it:
- Make you feel productive?
- Validate you?
- Justify what you’re doing?
- Give you a reason to look at what’s not working?
- Give you an excuse to avoid doing something that makes you uncomfortable?
None of the answers to these questions will make you feel particularly good, but they will give you insights and insights give you power!
2. Visualize the life you want to have
One of the exercises involves budgeting AND goal setting. Here’s why. When my clients have done budgets in the past, they’ve figured out exactly what they need to pay their bills. And that’s what they make, practically to the penny. When their expenses go up, they bring in that amount in, but no more. They are basically fulfilling their expectation.
The same goes for the kind of business and life you have. If you envision life as an entrepreneur as hard, being on call 24/7, and working long hours that’s what you’ll get. If you want to exceed expectations start projecting what you DO want.
Get out a journal and write in as much detail as you can about the perfect day.
What time do you wake up? Where? What does your bedroom look like? Who else lives with you? What do you do all day? Write your dream life, then start taking steps to make it a reality.
If you keep your eye on the prize and keep your vision high, I promise you’ll be amazed at what you achieve.
3. Define your revenue generating activities
OK, here’s where we get tactical. As an entrepreneur, there are many things you could be doing, and a lot of that stuff doesn’t amount to diddly squat when it comes to moving your business forward. So, it’s really important that you figure out which activities will move your business forward. This is a problem that has confounded many a creative and none of us are immune to procrastinating or getting side-tracked, so I’m going to share a question that will help you cut right to the chase. Ready?
Is what I’m doing at this exact moment a money-generating activity?
Now, if you’re not sure what constitutes “money-generating”, it’s essentially one of two things: (1) Doing paid work for a client (2) marketing your services to new prospective clients.
If it doesn’t fall into either of those categories stop doing it. That’s right, just stop!
4. Bundle your time
Now, I’m one of those people who likes to get stuff done. And in that quest, I’ve bought into just about every time management strategy there is. And here’s what I learned. Creating inflexible schedules for myself just doesn’t work. It leaves no room for spontaneity or the unexpected stuff that comes up in any business. It also sets you up for failure because you just can’t stick to it.
We all know multitasking doesn’t work, right? When we flit from task to task it not only takes time for our brain to adjust and get up to speed each time, it leaves us feeling unsure about what we achieved at the end of the day.
When I learned about bundling my time, everything changed in my business. I always know what I’ll be working on each day, I know (roughly) how long things take so I can plan effectively, I end each day with a sense of accomplishment. Sound good? Here’s how I bundle my time (feel free to adapt this for your own business).
- I review my money generating activities (remember, clients, and marketing to new clients).
- How many clients can I serve at once? How long will that take? OK, knowing I can serve 3 clients a day, I block out 3 days a week JUST for clients. This allows me to be there for them, all-in, without being distracted by the bookkeeping I need to do or newsletter I need to write.
- Now I look at my marketing activities. Typically, that’s my newsletter, creating images for my social posts, and specific pitches for speaking or teaching gigs. I dedicate one full day per week for that.
- And lastly, admin. Remember that what you focus on expands so I dedicate half a day a week to doing bookkeeping and ensuring I’m focusing on generating and managing cash flow.
- That leaves me with a half a day to pick up tasks where I need to.
This simple system works incredibly well. Now it’s your turn. How could you bundle your time?
5. Manage your energy
This point builds upon the last one. I bundle my tasks based upon my energy. Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday are client days. Tuesdays are marketing days (so I can have the newsletter ready for my assistant to post on Fridays), and Friday is my admin day because that’s when I’m tired and least creative, so bookkeeping is a no-brainer.
Rule of thumb; do your creative work when you feel most energized. For me that’s the morning and earlier in the week. For you it might be at night. Work with your natural rhythms.
I’d love to hear what steps you’ll take to become more productive.
Justine Clay is a speaker and business coach for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Through a series of clear, actionable steps, Justine will teach you how to you identify what makes you stand out from the crowd, create a marketing message that resonates with your ideal clients, and build a successful and fulfilling creative business or career. Sign up for Justine’s free guide: How to Find High-Quality Clients and Get Paid What You’re Worth and start making monumental changes in your creative business or career today.